Ten Ways To Guarantee Your Parents Will Let You Study Abroad
I had a friend who was applying to study abroad in Spain right around the same time that I was considering heading off to St. Andrews, Scotland. While I ended up living the dream in the golfer’s paradise that is St. Andy’s during my junior year, she ended up staying at Holy Cross (which although it’s not that bad, it’s definitely not living the dream). Why? Because her parents wouldn’t allow her to study abroad. If you’re currently in the same situation, i.e. your parents don’t want to let you see the world when the best opportunity you might ever have is staring you in the face, use these ten points to try and convince them otherwise.
1. Have a plan for when you travel
This doesn’t need to resemble a NASA take-off checklist. At age 21, you’re fully capable of making it just about anywhere and everywhere on your own. However, to reassure your parents (as well as for your own safety), have a set list of information that you’ll email them before you leave your aboard university for school sponsored events, self-planned weekend trips, and basically any period when you’ll be away for longer than a day. Again, it doesn’t need to be crazy, just include things like flight numbers and times, hostel addresses and phone numbers, and of course when you’re leaving and getting back.
2. Show them a budget
A big reason parents hesitate to let student study abroad is the fear that he or she will blow their entire bank account within the first 3 weeks of landing. Discourage this way of thinking by making a simple budget with an outline of your financial plans. From general to specific, cover expenses like tuition and housing, weekly groceries, money that you’ll use for going out on weekends, traveling, and just about anything else that you’ll have to open your wallet for. (In addition to showing them how you plan to spend your money, you might try showing them how you plan on saving money as well.) It’s almost impossible to stick to a budget 100% of the time, but it shows your parents that you’re aware of the costs of living abroad, and it will help you keep your account in check while you’re on your own.
3. Explain how studying abroad will help you academically
You are studying abroad after all, so explaining to your parents about the academic benefits of heading off to a country on the other side of the world should actually be pretty easy. In addition to simply earning credits, you’ll be exposed to different teaching styles, introduced to topics from totally different perspectives, and if you’re learning a language, the opportunity to study it in best environment possible – the country that it’s spoken in . You should also let your parents know (assuming you’ve done this) that you’ve already checked with either the registrar’s office or the study abroad office at your home university, and will be receiving credit for whichever classes you take abroad.
4. Explain how studying abroad will help you with your career
By studying abroad you’re much more marketable to grad schools and employers, both because of the previously mentioned academic benefits, and also because of the intangible life skills you’re going to pick up along the way. You’ll become a much worldlier person, and you’ll have something most other people can’t put on their resume – cultural capital. In a time when the job offerings are slim and applicant resumes all look alike, studying abroad is something that can set you apart from the rest.
- Internships – studying abroad also provides the opportunity to secure an internship that many people could only dream of having. By working at in internship in another country, you’ll understand the difficulties of dealing with problems in a more stressful environment, different business mannerisms in different countries, and the satisfaction of working and conducting business among different peoples and cultures.
5. Explain how studying abroad will help you grow as a person
Believe it or not, this is the biggest benefit of studying abroad, and also why I often write that the bulk of what you learn isn’t in the classroom. For many students, this is the first time you’ll be living without the ability to depend on your parents for help whenever a difficult situation or decision comes up. And this is where a lot of intangible skills will come from. Independence, time management, organization, social skills, self confidence; they’ll all develop exponentially while you’re abroad. Don’t get me wrong, I could never have stayed abroad for this long without the help of my parents, but I also wouldn’t have been able to do it had I not developed physically, mentally/ socially, and academically on my own.
6. Insure that you’ll have regular contact with them throughout your time abroad
Technology is a beautiful thing, and although it can’t get rid of a 12 hour time difference, it has made communicating with family and friends back home extremely easy, convenient, and cheap. Assuming you own a laptop, calling your parents back in the States is as simple as connecting your webcam and logging into Skype. While constant daily contact is one of the main causes of homesickness, I’ve found that catching up for an hour or so every Sunday night has very positive effects for both myself and for everyone back home. Feel free to explore other methods of communication whether it’s through Facetime or any other VoIP application.
7. Tell them you want to explore new subjects that are not offered at your university
In my opinion, this is a sometimes overlooked yet totally legitimate reason to study abroad. Maybe a class that’s offered will help you get credit for your degree, or maybe you just really like the course offerings at a particular school that you can’t enroll in at home, but either way, going to school in a different country almost guarantees there will be a larger number of courses and course material that you won’t be able to experience at your University in the States. Case in point, while I was in Scotland, I took Melanesian Anthropology, The Mongols and the West, Medieval Castles, and Anthropology: Regional Ethnography – none of which were offered at Holy Cross.
8. Show them that you know about the importance of safety abroad
Since 2007, just about any story concerning studying abroad that has actually made it on big time news stations has unfortunately been about someone dying. Although I’m willing to bet about 99.999% of students that go abroad have never had any experience in that serious of a situation, incidents do occur, and it’s logical for your parents to worry. Reassure them that your capable of living abroad by letting them know you understand possible dangers including pickpockets and black cabs, that you’ll never walk around on your own and you’ll always carry a cell phone, that your passport will be on you but safely attached so you can’t lose it, and that you understand the consequences of drinking too much alcohol. Some of these subjects may be a little uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s better to eliminate any doubt from their mind before they make their final decision.
Looking for some safety tips? Check out my post on Staying Safe While Studying Abroad
9. Blog while abroad
Although my projects now include The Ultimate Study Abroad Guide, and an online store, The Study Abroad Store, I originally started writing The Study Abroad Blog as a way to keep up and share my experiences with friends and family back home. While I’m happy that I bought my own domain name and self-host my blog, it’s totally okay to use something like blogger, tumblr, or wordpress.com to get started. From personal experience, I can confidently say that your parents will love to read stories about your school and social life, see pictures from your travels, and keep up with your overall progress integrating and understanding a totally different culture.
10. Explain that you genuinely want a better perspective on the world
One of the most important things I took studying abroad is that it’s hard to know what you want to do in this world if you’ve never seen it. So much can be said for living and immersing oneself in another country and culture for a semester or year. Studying abroad is a truly eye-opening experience, and as a result, you’ll probably have re-examined or developed new values, priorities, and views about yourself, the U.S. and the world in general. You’ll be enlightened in a way that that causes you to question what you otherwise might not have, analyze how you used to live in the past, and critically think about what you want to do in the future.
Just about any reason against studying abroad can be countered by a million reasons for it. While I’m not promoting openly defying or arguing with your parents, if you can show them why they should really let you study abroad, it’ll be hard for them to say no. Keep these tips in mind, carefully prepare your argument, and when delivering it, stand firm on your desire to study abroad.
If you have any other questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!